House ap­proves $700B for de­fense

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - BUSINESS - By Richard Lard­ner

WASH­ING­TON » House Repub­li­cans and Democrats joined forces Tues­day to de­ci­sively ap­prove a de­fense pol­icy bill that au­tho­rizes $700 bil­lion to re­stock what law­mak­ers have de­scribed as a de­pleted U.S. mil­i­tary and counter North Korea’s ad­vanc­ing nu­clear weapons pro­gram.

Law­mak­ers voted 356-70 to pass the leg­is­la­tion, with 127 Democrats back­ing the mea­sure. Once the de­fense bill clears the Senate, which is ex­pected this week, the bill will be sent to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump for his sig­na­ture.

The de­fense bill for the 2018 fis­cal year al­lots some $634 bil­lion for core Pen­tagon op­er­a­tions and nearly $66 bil­lion for wartime mis­sions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and else­where. The fund­ing boost pays for more troops, jet fight­ers, ships and other weapons needed to halt an ero­sion of the mil­i­tary’s com­bat readi­ness, ac­cord­ing to the bill’s back­ers.

Trump’s 2018 re­quest sought $603 bil­lion for ba­sic func­tions and $65 bil­lion for over­seas mis­sions. But se­cur­ing the higher amounts re­mains con­tin­gent upon Congress reach­ing an agree­ment to roll back a 2011 law that set strict lim­its on most fed­eral spend­ing. That’s a lot harder than it sounds, how­ever. Lift­ing the bud­get caps will face re­sis­tance from Democrats who also are seek­ing to in­crease the bud­gets for do­mes­tic agen­cies.

Rep. Adam Smith of Wash­ing­ton, the top Demo­crat on the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, voted for the bill while also crit­i­ciz­ing Congress for re­fus­ing to come to grips with its out-of­con­trol ap­proach to bud­get­ing. Smith said it’s in­con­sis­tent for Repub­li­cans to push for bil­lions of dol­lars more in de­fense spend­ing while also ad­vo­cat­ing tax over­haul leg­is­la­tion that will deepen fed­eral deficits over the next decade.

Even if Congress had a “fit of fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity” and de­cided to raise rev­enue in­stead of cut­ting it, Smith said, “we’re still look­ing at needs within the na­tional se­cu­rity bud­get ... that are wildly be­yond the amount of money that we have.”

Repub­li­cans in­sist tax cuts will es­sen­tially pay for them­selves by spurring eco­nomic growth. But

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